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An Italian in Philly: Comparing School Systems

Growing up I’ve always looked at the Italian school system with a critical eye, because I knew that, even if it was reputable, there was definitely room for improvement. One of the main reasons I wanted to go study abroad was precisely to experience a new school system, different than what I’ve been used to for my entire life. Be ready because there’s a lot to unpack.

The classes

First thing on my list of differences has to be the classes. They are two completely different worlds. In Italy, university classes are usually two or three hours long and most of the time the professors is explaining some new topic, occasionaly asking questions to the class or giving some exercises to do. Here, classes are only one hour and twenty minutes long and are usually filled with group activities, quizzes or discussions, which makes them incredibly more interactive.

The grading system

Something I certainly did not expect coming here was the amount of homework and projects I would have to do every single week. In my hometown university we rarely had any homework and if we did it was optional. We did have projects, although we usually just had to submit the entire project by the end of the semester, while here every few weeks you are required to submit parts of it. Of course these considerations are not valid for every course, but from what I’ve seen most of them are like this. The final grade would then be the sum of every individual homework, project and exam, while in Italy the entire grade depends on the final exams and potentially a project.

The campus

As I was saying in my previous post, the Drexel’s campus is a city of its own. There’s a dragon in every corner reminding you that you are part of this community. The “campus” of my home university in Bologna isn’t really a campus, several buildings of the city belong to the university, but they are mixed with normal buildings which makes it less unified, but more blended with the city life.

The events

Another thing worth mentioning are all the events that the university here hosts. Welcome Week, for example, was one of them, but we also had the Drexel University Convocation, the Involvement Fair, the pizza parties hosted by the Office of Global Engament, not to mention all the sports games! There’s always something going on here.

Final considerations

To wrap up everything that was said, I think the Italian school system is overall more focused on cumulating knowledge to then use for big projects on in the job world, while the American one aims to immediately put that knowledge into practice and to develop soft skills along the way. For what concerns the grading system, I personally prefer the Italian one, even if it create a lot of pressure around the final exam I’d much rather not have to worry every other day about a homework deadline. Regarding the campus and the events I’d assume this is the logical consequence of having a tuition that is 27 times higher than the Italian one (yes, I calculated it), therefore having more activities and oppurtunities for the students.

In conclusion, as with all things, there’s not an absolute best or worst school system, but it depends on personal preference and customs. One thing that I can say for sure though is that I’m grateful to have experienced this new reality and I believe it’s something everyone should try at least once during their academic life.

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